Chaim Y. Botwinick
Chaim Y. Botwinick

Lag B’Omer 2021: The Har Meron Tragedy

Our hearts are broken and our spirits have been shattered by the horrific Lag B’Omer tragedy on Har Meron.

As we read the continuous flow of news reports coming out of Israel and as we view the surrealistic video feeds on social media of the carnage that took place at Har Meron, we are frozen in time and shocked in disbelief.

On this past Lag B’Omer, 45 brothers – young, old, chassidic,  modern, ashkenazic, sephardic, Israeli, Americans and Europeans met their horrible fate as they were celebrating Lag B’Omer together – arm in arm, hand in hand…..with simcha, with song, dance and tefillot.

It is impossible to explain or even begin to comprehend why this tragedy occured. To be sure, the how it happened will be under investigation by Israeli authorities for weeks to come , maybe even moths to come,,,, possibly through a soon to be established Meron Commission. But WHY it happened is a daunting question  which we will never ever be able to answer….nor should we try.

As we know, HaShem (GD) runs the world. That reality is undeniable. As difficult and as perplexing this concept may be, throughout history, our Jewish community has experienced horrible atrocities, destruction and devastation. But, we always accepted the will of GD. And our survival and existence as a people and as a nation today is the result of this unswerving and unparalleled faith and relationship to GD.

This reality does not lessen or minimize the profound personal loss and deep pain now being experienced by hundreds of families, and by extension, our entire Jewish world. It was an event which will change our lives and memories of Lag B’Omer forever …..in the same manner other events in Jewish history impact our very existence today.

I am not one to talk about lessons learned or takeaways from this horrific event. That would be the height of insensitive arrogance and self promoting indulgent rhetoric. Furthermore, it would not demonstrate respect or kavod (honor) the precious memory of those who perished. I can only reflect and share how this tragedy on Har Meron affects me on a personal level.

As I  reflect on this past Lag B’Omer, I am haunted by continuously thinking about the many families who are now sitting shiva for their loved ones; the children who will no longer have their fathers bless them at the Friday evening Shabbat table; the wives who are now widows and the parents and grandparents who will no longer fulfill their dream of walking their sons and grandsons down the aisle to the chuppah (wedding canopy).

Finally on the communal level, I reflect upon the concept of AchdutJewish Unity – a topic and challenge I have written about and Blogged about on numerous occasions on this very platform.

I think about all the people with diverse religious backgrounds who perished or who were seriously injured on Har Meron. I think about how medical rescue personnel, the IDF, and volunteers rushed to the scene and worked so tirelessly to save and treat the victims and injured, irrespective of religious background or practice.  And finally, I think about how the Jewish world now mourns the loss of all those who perished…..again, irrespective of religious background, custom or commitment.

Our Jewish community’s unswerving commitment to Achdut – whether it be proactive or reactive, is a challenge which has helped our Jewish community thrive and even survive following dangerous existential events. But, the opposite may also be true. Where there is no Achdut, there is no community and where there is no community we become scattered without direction or purpose.

My friends, Achdut in our community must become one of our community’s highest priorities. We have no alternative and there are no other options.

Achdut must be realized in memory of those who perished on Har Meron….may their memory be a blessing.

May Hashem Comfort Those Who Lost Loved Ones Among the Mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is currently Principal of the Hebrew Academy Community Day School in Margate FL and Executive Coach and Consultant. He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011
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